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My generation was introduced to Robert Downey Jr. when he breathed new life into superhero movies as wise-cracking billionaire genius Tony Stark. I don’t know how many actors could have made this character with a superhero-sized intellect relatable. But Downey’s Tony Stark was just as comfortable building a space-age Ironman suit as he was wrenching on his 1932 Ford hotrod.

This version of Tony Stark was so popular with audiences, Marvel made Robert Downey Jr. the center of the Avengers franchise. And paid him Stark Industries money for his services. Downey admits “the cars of the 60s and 70s just make your heart beat a little faster…as a red-blooded American boy, I wanted in.” Once he had enough money for the “pro game” that is the collectors’ car auctions at Barret-Jackson and Mecum, he put together a stunning collection of muscle cars, sedans, and trucks.

Robert Downey Jr. closes the scissor door of an exotic sports car.
Robert Downey Jr. | HBO via YouTube

But that’s not all. Even looking at a priceless collectible, Downey admits, “I can’t leave it alone.” He’s had shops such as Speedkore build him modified classic cars dialed up to 11. He even has gifted modified muscle cars to his costars, such as Chris Evans’ carbon fiber Camaro.

While Tony Stark has a robotic assistant, Robert Downey Jr. prefers to hire real humans to help him. When HBO and Downey agreed to do a car show he said, “I’m an idea man, so I enlisted a team of folks to restore my cars in ways that are less harmful to the planet.”

The results are bizarre, brazen, and some would say sacrilegious. But I love them. The six cars built for the show are:

  • 1972 Chevrolet K-10 truck with a lift kit and Tesla powertrain
  • 1969 Mercedes-Benz family heirloom sedan turned into a biodiesel with recycled bottle upholstery
  • 1965 Chevrolet Corvette with a pair of Hyper 9 electric motors
  • 1966 Buick Riviera with a modern hybrid LS and real-time emissions testing
  • 1972 VW Bus with an electric engine and solar-powered BBQ
  • 1985 Chevy El Camino with a turbocharged 4-cylinder and solar-charging E-bikes in the bed

Downey is indeed an idea man, with some fantastically wacky ideas. He’s also willing to make fun of himself. Though he hires the work done by career custom builders, in one scene he jokes with his son, “I’m what you call, I’m a gear-head. I’m a grease monkey.” His son looks at the camera and delivers the line: “Are we sure he’s the right guy to be hosting this show?”

Downey’s Dream Cars is the furthest thing from a traditional car restoration show. And Robert Downey Jr. isn’t the stereotypical muscle car enthusiast. The result are far from your traditional builds. And that’s a great thing. There’s no way the car enthusiast community expands by leaning into the stereotypes for its current members.

What’s more, Downey is doing his best to future-proof his classic cars. He sees the world is changing, and is doing his best to make sure his beloved 1960s and 1970s classics have a place in it. Hats off to that!

You can see the trailer for Downey’s Dream Cars in the video below: